LINCOLN–(NGA News Release June 26)–Norfolk’s Luke Kluver had his championship moment on Friday at Hillcrest Country Club, coming back to win the 53rd Nebraska Match Play Championship, 5 and 4 over Elkhorn’s Ryan Nietfeldt.
It’s the first NGA Title for Kluver, who will be sophomore on the Kansas Jayhawk golf team in the fall. He fell behind early and trailed after the first 18 holes of the 36-hole final, but made a charge during the second 18 and became the first No. 1 seed to win the title since 2012. Kevin Stanek of Bellevue won that year as the top seed, claiming his second-straight title.
Nietfeldt, the 2003 Champion, was in his fourth Nebraska Match Play Final, which is the second-most all-time. He rolled in a birdie on the first hole of the day from about 15 feet to take the lead. Kluver won the second with a par, but Nietfeldt birdied holes No. 6 and 8 to regain his lead. Then Nietfeldt won three of the first five holes on the back nine to push his lead to 3 up. Kluver answered with a birdie on the 17th hole, but had some tree trouble on the 18th and Nietfeldt’s lead went back to 3 up after the first round.
After the break, Kluver wasted no time in getting to work. He rolled in an eagle putt from the fringe of the par-5 first hole, and had a great par save on the second hole after more tree trouble. Then Kluver caught fire, winning the par-3 third with a par, before back-to-back birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. Just like that, Kluver took a 1-up lead after winning four of the first five holes.
Nietfeldt again won the eighth hole, but couldn’t convert par putts on Nos. 9 and 10 to fall behind again. Kluver got up-and-down for the second time of the day on the par-5 11th hole to gain a 3-up lead. Both players hit their tee shots inside 10 feet on the par-3 12th, and each were able to convert their birdie putts. However, Kluver hit a long drive on No. 13 and his wedge shot gave him another look at birdie. He knocked it down for his third straight birdie, then closed out the match with a par on the 14th hole.
It’s a record third runner-up finish for Nietfeldt at the Nebraska Match Play, where he finished second in 1995 and 1996 as well. Kluver played the final 14 holes in 6-under par during the final. His first title included four wins against past champions. He defeated 2002 Champion AJ Elgert of Lincoln in the Round of 32, 2004 Champion Travis Minzel of Lincoln in the Quarterfinals and 2019 Champion Caleb Badura of Aurora in the Semifinals, before beating Nietfeldt in the Final.